Injuries mount as Connacht prepare for Leinster challenge
Coach Pat Lam says Saturday’s game atthe RDS is ‘a perfect game for us’
Connacht’s Matt Healy who is “delighed” to have signed a two-year extension to his contract. Photograph: James Crombie/Inpho
Connacht retreated from Parma with a valuable Heineken Cup win under their belts in advance of December’s back-to-back meetings with Toulouse but with an increasing physical toll as they brace themselves for upcoming clashes away to Leinster on Saturday and at home to Glasgow a week later.
Fullback James So’oliao sustained a badly sprained ankle on his delayed full debut which is liable to sideline him for those two games, which Pat Lam described as “a big loss considering some of the other backs that are down at the moment.”
Hooker Jason Harris Wright is also to have a scan on a recurring bicep problem which makes him very doubtful to face Leinster. “We have gained nobody, and we have lost an extra two. That’s just the way it is,” said the Connacht coach, who probably won’t have prop Nathan White (calf) back until the Glasgow game although in the longer run Eoin Griffin, John Muldoon and Eoin McKeon should return after the well-earned November break.
Lam admitted there was still a residual disappointment about the six-point defeat to Saracens in round one, and no doubt with some of the refereeing as well, but after their 33-6 win away to Zebre he maintained: “The bottom line is that we are still in it. If we’d got the win (against Saracens) we could be on eight points. And that’s a good feeling, that everyone is still gutted about losing to Saracens, but the most important thing is that we’re still alive.
“We’ve parked that now and we keep building as we are as a team, and then when that competition starts again in December with Toulouse back-to-back in six days, as you saw, one international goes off and another one comes on, and is a big unit. So that’s another big task. But this is going to hold us in good stead as we go on.”
On the eve of facing his native province, winger Matt Healy has been awarded, and signed, a two-year contract extension. “I’m massively delighted to sign it. I got the opportunity to come down here to Connacht the summer before last and that was huge for me. For them to extend the opportunity fills me with great confidence and I’m delighted to stay here.”
Lam described it as a fair reward for the way Healy impressed him with his attitude and willingness to learn adding: “He has shown that those performances so far what he can do and I believe there is so much more that he can do.
“He is a converted half back playing on the wing, but he has got some special gifts. There are contracts that you get for what you have done and contracts you get for what you can do in the future. It’s no different, Matt’s earned this contract. We see a lot of potential but more importantly with his attitude I believe he can go all the way if he puts the work in.”
Lam described Saturday’s scrap with Leinster at the RDS as “a perfect game for us. It’s a big challenge. These guys have consistently been the best team in Europe, and they are full of Irish internationals and guys who play overseas in international teams too. Connacht hasn’t beaten Leinster in Dublin since 2002, they’ve never won at the RDS. So it’s a mighty challenge. But it’s on that we are looking forward to and we talked about it this week. We have to just continue to build on what we are doing, take a lot of confidence out of last week and the week before, and our Europe form to now bring it back to begin the process of trying to win in Dublin.”
Doing the maths
Even before he arrived in Galway, Lam admitted to doing the maths and comparing the number of internationals in the Leinster squad compared to Connacht’s. “It’s a totally different ratio, isn’t it? Every game realistically we only have Robbie (Henshaw) in the squad, but when you see all our guys are pushing, all our guys want to put their name in the frame. Looking to the future and looking ahead, obviously Matt’s going well and it’s great news that he wants to stay here, and sees his future here for the next few years.
“All the other players, all the Irish boys want to play for Ireland so it’s a great chance to show what they can do. Of course, that said, we’re realistic, for the November internationals it’s just Robbie that’s in the picture.”